ROGERS CITY - Presque Isle County will pay subcontractors who worked on a county building annex project in preparation for a possible lawsuit against a Hubbard Lake construction company involved with the project.
Since September, when commissioners opted to ask the Michigan State Police to investigate NorthShore Construction for possible criminal activities, the board has debated its next move. Subcontractors involved with renovating the Nowicki Building into county offices continued to contact the county seeking payment, and commissioners voted to pay more than $68,000.
The money will be divided among the subcontractors according to what they're still owed, board Chairman Carl Altman said. The county's intent is to sue NorthShore Construction in an attempt to recoup the cost, pending further advice from Prosecutor Rick Steiger.
After the meeting, Altman said commissioners hope the issue is resolved quickly.
"We feel for the people who are owed money out there," he said.
By paying the subcontractors, commissioners also are hoping to clear liens held on the building by these subcontractors, Altman said. County Resource Officer Joe Libby told the board four of the subcontractors had agreed to do so, and he believed the rest would be willing to as well.
Initially, commissioners asked the MSP to investigate in September after Libby informed them of an alleged inaccuracy in a sworn statement NorthShore had submitted. The statement contained a list of subcontractors working on the project. In September, Libby was contacted by other, unlisted subcontractors seeking payment, he said.
County officials met with NorthShore Construction in August to close out the project, Libby told the board in September. The county had agreed to pay the contractor $20,000 once the subcontractors were paid, and NorthShore could provide documentation.
This never happened, and aside from a notice in September about NorthShore's supposedly impending bankruptcy proceedings, the county didn't hear from the contractor, Libby said. He told commissioners Wednesday he's been able to find no other reference to bankruptcy proceedings involving the contractor.
Echoing the concerns of other board members, Schell asked Steiger if the plan would be complicated by any actual bankruptcy proceedings. Steiger said the money potentially could be considered as the contractor's assets, and frozen by a bankruptcy court, although he didn't think this was very likely.
"I just want to make sure we're not in double jeopardy on it," Schell said.
NorthShore Construction has not returned repeated phone messages seeking comment, including one left Thursday evening. The company's website apparently has been taken down since September, displaying a "forbidden" error Thursday.
In other business, commissioners approved wages for county employees, including a reduction in wages for the incoming county treasurer and clerk, respectively. Both women are new to their positions, and they'll be paid less to start than their predecessors, Altman said. The register of deeds, county prosecutor and sheriff got raises, among others. While base wages and salaries were largely unchanged, several appointed officials and department heads will get extra money, paid in two lump sums in June and December of 2013. These totals range from $600 for the county equalization director and $1,000 for the assistant prosecutor.
Overall, the county will pay $540,890.40 in wages, a drop of $10,950 from the previous year, Altman said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688